On the 17th episode of “The Activist Files,” Communications Associate Josh Manson talks with Janice Dickerson and her attorney, Christopher Meeks, about the struggle to protect a historically Black cemetery in Louisiana. Purchased in 1881 by Janice’s great-great-great grandfather and other former slaves, Revilletown Cemetery in Plaquemine, LA, has long been the final resting place for former slaves and their descendants. The chemical company Westlake/Axiall Chemical, which operates adjacent to the cemetery, has built a fence around the property and prevented Janice and other community members from accessing the it, including visiting their ancestors buried there. Westlake/Axiall Chemical has closed the access road to the cemetery, called the police when community members have tried to visit, threatened arrest, and otherwise harassed those who try to visit. The company now says that Janice cannot challenge its actions or claim possession of the property.
As Janice says, in a poignant and unarguable comment, “If this would have been a white graveyard we never would have these problems.” The conversation broadens to discuss the effect of chemical plants on the lives and health of Black communities throughout Louisiana. This episode is an important look at the broader struggle to maintain Black-owned land.